Canadian chef Brad Long loves butter so much that he wrote an entire book about it.
“Brad Long on Butter” (The Harvest Commission, Toronto, 2017) is the first in a series by the publisher called by“Chefs to Readers”.
The first thing that I noticed about Long’s book is the author’s voice. He shares information, opinion, and recipes using conversational language and plenty of humour. In writing recipes, Long elaborates, explains and expounds on what’s being done, and why.
Moving logically through the book, Long first describes how butter is made and how to make it at home. He tells how to make basic preparations, Drawn Butter, Clarified Butter or Ghee, Beurre Blanc, and Beurre Noisette. After that he shares recipes for dishes as down-to-earth as Brown-Buttered Popcorn and as “chefy” as Grilled Humboldt Calamari in Beurre Noir and Pickled Milkweed Relish.
The book is illustrated with well-styled and colour photographs pictures, and text is printed in a clean, modern font. A table of contents and index help with navigation.
I’ll paraphrase Long’s instructions for making Brown Butter, or Beurre Noisette. He emphasizes that you must read through the instructions before starting. Because you risk fire and burns when heating fat over direct heat if you are careless or unaware of the dangers, he stresses ways to do so safely.
He suggests starting with a pound of butter. Different types of butter (salted, unsalted, cultured) work differently, and he likes to use salted butter.
Long summarizes the process this way: ”Once you pick your butter, melt it in a tall, medium saucepot over high heat, full flame, until the butter foams, the milk solids fall, and the solids begin to brown.” Here it is in more detail.
Choose a tall saucepan, bigger than you expect to need, to prevent butter boiling over the side of the pot when it foams, and stay with the pot the whole time the butter is heating.
Melt the butter over high heat until it reaches the boiling point of water, 100°C (212°F), at which time the butter will bubble and foam, as the water evaporates from it. The foaming will subside, but as the components that remain continue to heat, the butter fat will cook the milk proteins and sugars, causing more foaming and a change in colour and aroma. The butter takes on a golden colour and the aroma of hazelnuts (noisettes).
As soon as you notice these changes, remove the pot from the heat and pour the butter into another container so that it won’t overcook. For baking, he recommends pouring the brown butter directly into a heat-resistant measuring cup. For use in his Brown Butter Vinaigrette–yes, he does use Brown Butter in a salad dressing, and it’s delicious– strain it immediately through a fine-mesh sieve, a china cap or cheesecloth.
Long’s recipe for Blondies hits all the flavour high spots: fat, sugar and salt. You might consider them a special treat for the festive season.
Brown Butter Blondies
275 mL (1¼ cups) Brown Butter (start with at least 425 mL/1¾ cups cold butter), cooled to room temperature
800 mL (3¼ cups) all purpose flour
12 mL (2½ tsp) baking powder (optional; if you prefer dense blondies, omit)
10 mL (2 tsp) kosher salt
500 mL (2 cups) packed brown sugar
125 mL (½ cup) cane sugar
3 large eggs
5 mL (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Line a 23x33 cm (9x13 inch) cake pan with parchment paper. Brown the butter as directed above, and set aside to cool at room temperature.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitter with the paddle attachment on low speed, mix together the sugar and cooled brown butter until smooth (creamed).
One at a time, add the eggs, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Spread the dough (it will be quite thick) evenly over the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Take care not to overbake and dry the Blondies out.
Let cool completely in the pan before cutting to desired size.
Makes 12 large or 24 medium squares.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at email@example.com.